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№ 10 (October 2006)
Hidden deep in the heart of LUKOIL’s massive Moscow headquarters, guarded by omnipresent security devices and gloomy men in uniforms, lays the treasure chest of jewels dear to all oilmen.
This treasure chest is nothing like the traditional one of a pirate – made of chrome and glass with an artfully lit interior, it envelops relics with high tech capabilities and the space station atmosphere of a star-studded dome. Rare antiques along with touch screen multimedia terminals here pay tribute to the turbulent history and precious traditions of the oil and gas industry.
Organized conjointly by the Council of Veterans and LUKOIL’s mass communications and HR departments in 2005, this wonder of a museum occupies a modest 120 m2, but encompasses the whole of the industry’s past and present. Much of its latitude is accomplished by means of the most comprehensive and up-to-date information contained in the microchips of interactive flat screen sensor kiosks, prepared to appease every visitor’s caprice individually and designed especially for this museum. One of the more captivating terminals is called “the black gold of the planet,” which contains text and photographs of oil history, enhanced by personal archives of museum’s contributors. Here one learns how deposits form, how they’re extracted, processed, and used. A collage of flat screen monitors displaying documentary footage of the years passed, as well as images of the industry’s present, greets the visitor at the entrance gates. Yet another plasma panel displays LUKOIL’s activities on the map of the world, along with information on more than 400 of its daughter companies, each with its own electronic page.
The few shelves and cases that do conform to the traditional model of a museum here are arranged chronologically around the hall, starting with the fountain-head of the industry in Russia – Peter the Great’s order of August 24th, 1700. The order established Russia’s first mining and geological department to systematically pursue the conquest for the country’s natural resources. Although oil was used little in his day, mostly as medicine, Peter the Great had an idea of its larger potential, as he asked for oil samples to be brought to him while in the Caucasus. His bust, a mini author’s copy of sculptor Surovtsev’s famous creation, currently housed at the Royal Army and Military History Museum in Belgium, adorns this display along with authentic ancient maps of renowned Russian centers of oil extraction, where LUKOIL operates to this day.
The next exhibit bears the gentle appellation of “kunstcamera” or “cabinet of curiosities” and displays articles of the pre-revolutionary oil industry. Here the eye beholds a bottled sample of the first oil extracted by the Nobel brothers’ oil producing corporation Branobel, one of the largest oil companies of the time, as well as a unique silver cigarette case with an oil well engraving, ancient oilers and canisters, tokens, yellowed samples of late 19th century shares of stocks. Scattered around are postcards of oil producing regional landscapes of Baku, Ukhta, and Povolzhye. Captivating are kerosene lamps possessed by diverse social strata at the turn of the past century, when the era of oil used for heat and light began.
By 1917, the Russian empire was extracting over thirty percent of the world’s oil. Bolsheviks were prompt to seize the reigns after the revolution – the next case displays a photograph of Lenin’s official government decree that nationalized the oil industry. Coupons, bonds, and stamps all bore images of oil derricks, as the proletariat was well aware of its resources. In the 1930s, when the system of repressive measures and concentration camps was established, many workers of the oil industry were arrested on fraudulent charges and sent to labor camps, such as the notorious Ukhtpechlag in Ukhta, to extract oil. A 1937 order of this camp’s government signed by comrade Yakov Moroz, a famous oilman in KGB epaulets who contributed much to oil extraction in Komi ASSR, summarizes the camp’s achievements for the year. “For not having reached the norm, such and such are to be placed in the punishment cell. Those who fulfilled the norm are to be awarded a gramophone with records,” expounds Sergei Sergeev, the director of LUKOIL’s museum and an honored worker of Russian culture.
The relatively recent World War II exhibit is enhanced by personal belongings and memorabilia of famous oilmen who contributed to the demolition of fascism, followed by an account of the soviet 5 year plans, when the communist party said “one must” and sent oilmen to Western Siberia. The interior of a typical construction trailer, buried deep in Siberian tundra, is reproduced in a “memory corner” with authentic attributes from Langepas, Uray, and Kogalym (the “LUK” in LUKOIL), where present company managers began their careers. “The company’s directors were not random people of chance, like it often happened in 1991,” explains Sergeev. “They’re not just former Komsomol workers or lab supervisors whose hands oil fell into, and they, having filled their own pockets, proceeded to destroy the oil fields and went somewhere else. Graifer and Alekperov are people who know the industry in depth and climbed a long career ladder from apprentices to deputy ministers.”
The crown jewel of this treasure chest of voices and images of the past is LUKOIL’s “pantry,” a lambent pyramid of solids and liquids organized by the company’s geologists. Numerous phials present the visitor with LUKOIL’s oil samples from all over the world, while various core samples vividly demonstrate where those samples come from. It suffices to smell them to be left beyond any doubts of the raw shape of oil. “Oil is not some large puddle that you approach, scoop with a bucket, run off, sell fast, and place a pack of bucks in your pocket. Extracting oil from stone is hard work, it does not give in to your hands just like that,” comments Sergeev, standing next to a petrochemical product display adorned with samples of fibers and plastics made out of oil.
The fragment that follows is dedicated to post 1991 history, the year LUKOIL was founded, displaying copies of registration certificates, licenses, and government statutes that laid the foundation of this first Russian vertically integrated oil company. LUKOIL’s recent paper stocks that have become history in the making, since all stocks became electronic, adorn the walls. A full-size functional gas station pump with today’s price pays tribute to the first Russian gas station LUKOIL opened in the US, in the center of Manhattan, in 1993.
But it’s the people who make a company, and LUKOIL made sure to honor the people who work for it as well as the people it works for with separate exhibits. One is dedicated to LUKOIL’s employees and their achievements, complete with an “alley of fame” multimedia kiosk that tells of the laurels the company awards. Another, called “the social responsibility of LUKOIL,”
presents the story of LUKOIL’s philanthropic work and sports sponsorships. “The company strives to preserve all the best traditions of the past, to adopt and develop them today, and we do not spit on the past and do not deny it, we treat it very respectfully and carefully,” elaborates Mr. Sergeev.
It’s LUKOIL’s philosophy to allow the acolytes of the industry access the contents of this treasure chest once in a while. Thus, the museum also acts as a special assembly place where new employees are inaugurated in the presence of the industry’s and company’s spirits. Ceremonial and other imp ortant gatherings are often held here, underneath a model of constellations one would see in the oil fields of Western Siberia, where LUKOIL’s communication satellite spreads its wings.